The cold air ____________________my neck. How would you fill in the blank?
I’ve been working with a group of first grade poets and I posed the same question to them. In my head, I considered the words “blew on” and “breathes on.” My first grade friends came up with those words too but they also came up with “kisses,” “tickles,” and “stings.” When I brought this question to these young writers, I had preselected “breathes on” as the best choice for what I was trying to say. After talking to them, they made me reconsider. “Sting” was, by far, the BEST word for the image I was trying to create. I planned to teach these first graders something new about word choice and walked away having learned more than I could have ever taught them.
A colleague recently shared a story of a college professor who postulated in a graduate school class that first graders weren’t really capable of writing poetry. When she shared that story, all I could think about were these first graders. They write things like “the snake slithers like a worm” and “my guinea pig, my own little prairie dog, he’s so fast like lightening!” By virtue of being a child, they find poetry in everything. They are awed by things that stopped being beautiful to adults a long time ago. First graders can’t write poetry? Only if we grown-ups tell them they can’t. Otherwise, their words capture the poetry of the world perfectly.